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Time Machine: Worth the Wait in Carolina

Posted Dec 6, 2012

The Falcons waited four years before earning their first win at Carolina, and when they finally did, a special year was ahead of them.

It took Atlanta four visits to Carolina before the Falcons broke the ice and captured a road victory against their division rivals in this series. The Panthers opened for NFL business in 1995 and it wasn’t until the 1998 season that the Falcons were able to claim a win.
 
The Birds traveled to then-named Ericsson Stadium for the season opener on September 6, 1998. Carolina was coming off a 7-9 campaign in 1997 under the team’s first head coach, Dom Capers. The Falcons finished with the same record under second-year veteran coach Dan Reeves but posted a 6-2 record over the second half to build momentum for ’98.  
 
Atlanta used a combination of a potent passing game early and a time-consuming ball control attack late to pull out a close win.
 
The Falcons started with an impressive 98-yard, 11-play drive after CB Ray Buchanan picked off a QB Kerry Collins pass at the Atlanta two-yard line to snuff out a potential score. WR Terance Mathis finished it off with an 11-yard touchdown grab.
 
Carolina tied the score at 7-7 with 1:57 left in the first half when Collins found TE Wesley Walls from six yards away.
 
A rare safety by the Birds came when CB Ronnie Bradford tackled Panthers P Ken Walter in the endzone for a 9-7 advantage halfway through the third quarter.
 
The lead was increased to 16-7 when WR Tim Dwight hauled in a 44-yard score. Carolina closed the gap to 16-14 to make it a game on a WR Raghib Ismail 56-yard scoring play. But that’s when Atlanta started pounding the ball and taking crucial time off the clock.
 
Thanks to the play of the offensive line and the powerful running of Jamal Anderson (88 rushing yards), the Falcons held the ball for 13 more minutes than the Panthers. The Birds’ defense also had a hand in the time of possession discrepancy as they limited the home team to 2.8 yards per carry and just 54 net yards rushing.
 
K Morten Andersen added some insurance with a 43-yard goal in the fourth stanza for the 19-14 final.  
 
This first victory of the 1998 season started a magical ride for the Birds that took them to new franchise heights. This week, the Falcons are looking to continue their winning ways in 2012 and sweep the yearly series against the Panthers for the eighth time. 

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